Thanks to some helpful translators in the Doha conference centre, I am able to offer an analysis of how CITES is going down in the Japanese press and what the Japanese government is likely to do this week and next.
Almost all newspapers reported the opening of the CITES meeting. They are almost exclusively focusing on BlueFin tuna saying that Japan is facing difficulties in getting the votes to turn down the proposed international ban on trade in BlueFin tuna. That means that little on sharks has been reported.
Norway's decision to support Monaco's proposal for an Appendix 1 listing for the BlueFin was also reported as indicating further difficulties for Japan. "Norway has been a fisheries country like Japan and a good ally in the whaling issue", said the Mainichi Shimbun over the weekend.
Almost all papers report the short-term adverse impact of the proposed BlueFin tuna trade ban on households. There are few exceptions. One article argued that "patience" would be needed to accept the tuna ban proposal and the solution will be "perfect" tuna farming - ie tuna farming from the egg as developed by Kinki University, so far on a less than commercial scale.
Translators say the science behind the proposal for an Appendix 1 listing is ignored in the Japanese press, as if to confirm the Japanese government's argument that "science does not indicate that Tuna is an endangered species".
In fact scientific panels of both ICCAT, the Atlantic tuna commission, and the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation have said that the BlueFin tuna's decline would support a CITES Appendix 1 listing.
The UN FAO panel said that the opinion was that of the majority, not unanimous. However, in an exclusive the Nishi Nihon Shimbun reported today that the only dissenting voice on the anonymous FAO panel was in fact a Japanese scientist.
The Nishi Nihon Shimbun had already reported at the weekend that "Japan has no good counter argument in science to an Appendix 1 listing."
The failures of regional fisheries management organisations, such as ICCAT, is also under-reported in the Japanese press, as is the fact that Monaco's proposal for an international trade ban is linked to a rehabilitation plan for the tuna stock.
Atsuchi Ishii, a Japanese academic and student of political science who is in Doha, said: "The Japanese Government's position is totally irrational and against the economic interest of Japan. My hypothesis is that it can only be explained by resource nationalism and getting as much tuna as possible. Even though Japan has a new government, nobody wants to take responsibility for changing the course of traditional Japanese diplomacy on fisheries."
Japan has said it would take a reservation against a tuna trade ban, as it is allowed to do under the CITES treaty, and speculation has suggested that it might go on trading with Libya, if Libya also took a reservation against a ban.
Mr Ishii said that even if Japan took out a reservation against a possible trade ban, it was highly unlikely actually to do any trading, as Japanese companies were based all around the world and would be vulnerable to consumer boycotts.
"The trade will not happen," he said.
Rough arithmetic showed Japan struggling to achieve a blocking minority yesterday, but the arithmetic needed for a ban - which needs a two thirds majority - was unclear too. Many African and Gulf state delegations were undecided and unsure who to support.
It looks as though Japan is preparing a Plan B and canvassing support among countries such as Australia and Canada which want to go on trading BlueFin. Delegates suspect that a proposal to list BlueFin on Appendix 2, which restricts and regulates trade, will emerge next week. If this is voted on first, and passes by a sufficient majority, any subsequent proposal will fall.
It looks as though we are in for an exciting couple of weeks.